The Malta Independent 22 July 2019, Monday

Justice Minister slams Jason Azzopardi for using ‘false arguments’ on Media Bill, PN reacts

Tuesday, 21 February 2017, 17:12 Last update: about 3 years ago

The Ministry for Justice cautioned shadow minister for Justice Jason Azzopardi against using “false and incorrect” arguments to paint the picture that the proposed Media Defamation Bill as being a threat to freedom of journalistic expression.

It said that the Bill includes crucial reforms that have been long overdue, and that it actually strengthens freedom of expression through the repeal of criminal libel, removal of precautionary warrant of seizures against the press and the strengthening of defence tools journalists have at their disposal in court when faced with a civil libel case.

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The government noted that Dr Azzopardi “turned the meaning of the European Court of Human Rights on its head”, in a press statement issued this afternoon.

“The Convention protects citizens from being faced with criminal charges about an action that was not considered a crime at the time it was committed, and not the other way round,” the Labour Party said.

The PL took umbrage at Dr Azzopardi’s claims that the three lawyers tasked with formulating the Bill, Dr Stefan Frendo, Dr Peter Grech and Dr Philip Manduca had been paid hundreds of thousands of euro and that they were not qualified for the task.

The statement said that Dr Frendo and Dr Manduca €11,800 alltogether, while Dr Grech was naturally not paid as part of his duties as Advocate General.

Regarding the registration of Maltese websites, the statement made an effort to remind the public that this is merely an extension of the laws in place for print and broadcast media.

PN reacts

Justice Minister Owen Bonnici is “deceiving” the public in order to defend the newly proposed Media Defamation Bill in order to stifle “freedom of expression,” the Nationalist Party said in a statement issued this afternoon.

The law is not only unique when compared to the rest of Europe, because it obliges people to register their website, but also goes against the European Convention for Human Rights, the PN said.

It also continued to say that contrary to the statement issued by Dr Bonnici earlier today, it is a breach of the ECHR to provide for ongoing criminal libel to continue while repealing criminal libel, all in the same proposed set of laws.

This was confirmed in an ECHR judgment from 16 September 2009 – Scoppola vs Italia, the PN continued.

 

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